Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Defining "Good Teaching" at the Graduate Level: Are We Meeting the Instructional Expectations of Doctoral Students?

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Defining "Good Teaching" at the Graduate Level: Are We Meeting the Instructional Expectations of Doctoral Students?

Article excerpt

This study used phenomenology to investigate doctoral student perceptions of "good teaching." Six semi-structured interviews were conducted and transcribed verbatim. Common themes were identified using domain analysis and four domains emerged. Participants perceived "good teaching" to involve an educator who: (1) exhibits passion which motivates learners, (2) knows and cares about learners, (3) applies diverse teaching strategies, and (4) demonstrates the relevance and applicability of content. Study results suggest that the interactive teaching methods typically recommended at the undergraduate-level may also be applicable and expected in doctoral-level courses.

From grade school to graduate school, teaching is an ac tivity and experience that can change one's life. For both the educator and learner, teaching can reveal a passion for something previously undiscovered, build confidence in subject area knowledge, change attitudes, and strengthen skills. For the individuals engaged in the act of teaching, it can challenge their intellectual capabilities, inspire creativity, and build positive relationships with learners. For the learner, being in a place where effective teaching is being demonstrated can reduce feelings of anxiety toward a topic area (Harcum, 1991), build student enthusiasm toward continuing their education (Sulzman, 2004), and encourage lifelong learning (Donnermeyer et al., 2005). However, what is it about the teaching experience for both the educator and learner that makes this life changing experience so valuable? In essence, what is "good teaching?"

A review of the teaching and learning literature reveals an ongoing debate concerning the key characteristics of effective teaching (Nilson, 2003). According to Korthagen (2004), "good teaching" is an ambiguous term that cannot be readily defined. Based on a review of key themes exhibited in the literature, however, "good teaching" can be broken down into two main areas: teacher practice and teacher personality.

Teachers display their knowledge about how to teach when they exhibit actions from the category of teacher practice. Gore, Griffiths and Ladwig (2004) stated that an effective teacher education program provides a focus on "productive pedagogy," of which deeper examination and reflection during the lesson planning process is a part. Behets (1997) identified observation and feedback as practices closely related to effective teaching. Concerning both teacher practice and personality, Kreber (2002) defines excellent teachers as those who motivate students, convey concepts, and help students overcome learning difficulties. Any decisions a teacher makes during an educational experience to facilitate the learning of all students falls within the realm of teacher practice.

Teachers display the category of teacher personality when they incorporate their character and charisma in their teaching. Korthagen (2004) stated that getting teachers in touch with their core qualities can guide students into getting more deeply and successfully involved with their learning. Roberts and Dyer (2004) suggested that personal qualities like care for others, motivation, and ethics must all either be part of the individual prior to entering a teacher education program or be developed during the program to ensure the teacher's effectiveness in the classroom.

Teacher practice and teacher personality compliment each other and influence the likelihood of "good teaching." To summarize the importance of teacher practice and personality, "good teachers" have been defined by numerous authors as those who are clear in their systematic delivery of content, enthusiastic about their subject, prepared and organized, stimulate student interest through their knowledge of and passion for the subject matter, kindle students' emotions, and build interpersonal rapport (Bain, 2004; Lowman, 1995; Menges & Austin, 2001; Spafford, 1998; and Theall, 1999).

Study Rationale

Although much research has been conducted on student opinion regarding effective teaching from grades ? …

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